Common food colorants and allergic reactions in children: Myth or reality?

Food Chem. 2017 Sep 1:230:578-588. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.03.043. Epub 2017 Mar 16.


Various additives, including food colorants (FCs), are used in the food industry to make food appealing to consumers and to add variety. Despite the widespread usage of FCs, adverse reactions related to their consumption, including reactions triggered by immune (immediate and delayed-type hypersensitivity) and non-immune (intolerance) mechanisms, are considered rare. There is a discrepancy between the perception of patients and parents (7.4%) and the reported prevalence of adverse reactions to additives (0.01-0.23%), which is higher in atopic individuals (2-7%). Documented reactions are mild, involving mainly the skin, and, rarely, anaphylaxis. A major problem in diagnosing reactions to FCs is identification of the offending agent(s), which is based on careful dietary history taking. Allergy testing is usually unrevealing, except for reaction to some natural colorants. Treatment consists of avoidance of the offending colorant as no successful desensitization procedures have been reported.

Keywords: Allergic reactions in children; Allergy; Allura Red AC Dye (PubChem CID: 6093299); Brilliant Blue (PubChem CID: 123671); Erythrosine Extra Bluish (PubChem CID: 27872); Fast Green (PubChem CID: 16887); Food additives; Food colorants; Food dyes; Indigotine (PubChem CID: 5353682); Orange B (PubChem CID: 5835026); Ponceau 4R (PubChem CID: 9570119); Sunset Yellow (PubChem CID: 6850717); Tartrazine (PubChem CID: 164825).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / analysis*
  • Child
  • Food Coloring Agents / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*


  • Allergens
  • Food Coloring Agents